GLOBAL shipping chiefs are calling upon people power to help secure the release of hundreds of innocent seafarers snatched by Somali pirates.
Shipping companies and associations from around the world have joined forces in a major campaign to encourage over a million people to heap pressure on their national government to crackdown on piracy.
There is no longer a way for ships coming from the Middle East to avoid the Somali pirate gangs in the Indian Ocean, but with greater political will, governments can resolve this growing crisis.
The Somali piracy crisis in the Indian Ocean affects every one of us worldwide. Over 800 seafarers are currently held hostage in appalling conditions by armed gangs of Somali pirates. Subjected to physical and psychological abuse for months at a time, they are held ransom for millions of dollars.
The Round Table of international shipping associations (RT) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) have launched the SOS Save Our Seafarers campaign (www.saveourseafarers.com ). It aims to highlight the plight of seafarers and brings pressure on governments to show more political will and less legalistic excuses in dealing with this situation.
Merchant ships are being attacked daily and run a gauntlet of gunfire and rocket propelled grenade attacks. In addition to the human cost, piracy is strangling key supply routes and costing the global economy $12 billion a year.
Piracy is out of control. As pirates use hijacked merchant ships (so-called motherships) to extend their reach almost to India’s coast some 1500 miles from Somalia, the lawlessness has spread right across the Indian Ocean through which half the world’s oil supply passes.
For tankers coming from the Gulf and the Middle East there is no longer an optional route to avoid the pirates – and a hijacked tanker with 2 million barrels of oil represents 20% of daily oil imports to the USA.
We rely on freedom of the seas for the safe delivery of 90% of our food, fuel, raw materials, humanitarian aid and manufactured goods. Shipping serves international trade and assists economic activity and therefore regional stability in neighbouring countries. This freedom to serve world trade is threatened.
Even when caught red handed, 80% of pirates are released to attack again.
SOS is specifically asking for governments to recognise the threat to our seafarers and the world economy, and take the necessary steps to eradicate piracy at sea and ashore by:
* Reducing the effectiveness of the easily-identifiable pirate motherships.
* Authorising naval forces to detain pirates and deliver them for prosecution and punishment.
* Fully criminalising all acts of piracy and intent to commit piracy under national laws in accordance with their mandatory duty to co-operate to suppress piracy under international conventions.
* Increasing naval assets available in this area.
* Providing greater protection and support for seafarers.
* Tracing and criminalising the organisers and financiers behind the criminal networks.
Go to http://www.saveourseafarers.com . Supporters can send a pre-prepared letter, signed by them, to their chosen head of government. It will also have up-to-the minute information on the piracy situation, and an SOS TV page with film clips and pictures.
The Round Table of international shipping associations consists of BIMCO, ICS/ISF, INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO.